by Karl H. Kazaks
When Joel McClosky and Andrew Deming opened Four Saints Brewing last year, they had “a mission much greater than beer,” said McClosky.
“We want to proselytize about the positive aspects of Randolph County.”
Until just a few years ago, Randolph County – a rural part of central North Carolina – did not permit on-premise beverage alcohol consumption. The city of Asheboro, the county seat, was entirely dry.
When McClosky moved to Asheboro, in 2004, he had to drive to the neighboring town of Randleman just to get package beer.
Within four months of opening their brewery – named after the four patron saints of beer, Saint Wenceslaus, Saint Nicholas, Saint Luke and Saint Augustine of Hippo – the pair’s efforts were noticed by their peers, when their Omie Blonde Ale won a gold medal at the 2015 North Carolina Brewer’s Cup.
But the positive reaction they’ve earned from their community members – and from visitors who come to Asheboro drawn by the brewery – mean so much more.
For a community familiar mainly with mass-market beer brands, Four Saints’s Ome Blonde has turned out to be a perfect introduction to craft beer. For someone not used to intense flavors, the crisp, clean, yet penetrating malt taste of Omie Blonde (which measures 4.1 ABV and 22 IBU) is an easy sell: not too different from what they’ve had before, but so much better.
The next beer a newbie to craft beer often tries at Four Saints is the more mouth-filling Potter’s Clay Amber Ale (5.7 ABV and 18 IBU), which shows a nice round caramel note and whose name is a nod to the region’s historic pottery tradition.
But the supply of high-quality, locally-made beer on draft – as compelling as it is – is not all that Four Saints offers its community. The 120-seat taproom, situated in Asheboro’s revitalizing downtown, has also turned into a social space, where people meet and bond over the beers brewed on-site.
The taproom has no televisions, so customers turn to each other. “I’ve seen it myself,” McClosky said, “how beer can bring people of different backgrounds together.”
The brewery, located about midway between Charlotte and Raleigh, has also drawn attention from consumers throughout central North Carolina. The spot has become a destination for day trips, and in the process, Four Saints has been able to fulfill its mission of bringing people to Asheboro and telling them about the good things of the area.
At present, Four Saints’s production is almost entirely draft – kegs and growlers. (They did package a 750ml Peach Hefeweizen and Gose.) About 40 percent of production is sold through the taproom, and the rest the brewery self-distributes to about 100 wholesale accounts. Their beers can be found across central North Carolina, including in Raleigh and particularly in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point.
A local grocery chain, Lowes Food, has recently installed a beer den with growler fills in its stores. Those dens feature Four Saints beers.
The brewery and taproom are located in a 100 year-old building. When the space was refurbished to make room for the new operation, the founders replaced the old cast iron plumbing.
Part of the financing for the opening of the business came from a Kickstarter campaign. Some of the 263 contributors to the campaign earned a spot in Four Saints’s mug club. That includes a custom earthenware mug from a local potter, plus shelf space for their mug in a pride of place location right behind the tasting bar.
Across the room from the bar is the art wall, where the brewery showcases new and established artists from around the region.
Supporting the arts is one way the brewery acts as an advocate for their community. Another way is in their support for civic issues, including veterans’ causes, families in need, and, when appropriate, schools and children.
The health of schools is particularly resonant at Four Saints because, until 2014, McClosky was an elementary school teacher. His wife Kristen and Andrew’s wife Amy still are teachers. Both Kristen and Amy helped with the start-up of Four Saints and remain involved in the business today.
As for the day-to-day, Andrew is mainly in charge of production and packaging (with help from cellarman, Mark McKaughn), while Joel oversees sales and the taproom. The brewery’s next step is to find a full-time salesperson and a tap room manager
The brewery’s lineup of beer is focused on classic, malt-driven styles. In addition to the Blonde Ale and Amber Ale, the year-round beers include a Hefeweizen, a stout, and a Belgian-style Dubbel. There are also four beers named after the saints – a Christmas Ale, a Bohemian Pilsener, a Honey Ginger Pale Ale, and a Jalapeno Smoked Brown Ale.
At first Four Saints wasn’t making an IPA, but when customers expressed interest, they created an IPA series. The first offering, a session, was named, You Asked For It. Since then, the IPA series has included a rye, a black, a white and a red.
When possible, Four Saints uses local products as ingredients in their brews, such as the pumpkins in their Belgian-style pumpkin ale.
The tap room – which features full 16 ounce pours, half pours of eight ounces, and tasting flights – is also where customers go to try specialty beers from the brewery’s five gallon pilot system. That line of beers is called Devil’s Advocate. Sometimes the weekly Devil’s Advocate beer will be an entirely new creation, such as Yoga Pants Latte, a pumpkin coffee concoction, or Sweet Potato Souffle, which included pecans. Other times, the beer will be a twist on one of Four Saints’s standard options, such as a variation of Potter’s Clay fermented with Belgian yeast.
That’s good for taproom sales, because customers like to compare the variation to the original. Trivia night on Thursdays is another draw.
Four Saints makes a number of lagers, as well as barrel-aged beers. The Brabant Caramel Quadrupel is named after the Belgian draft horse, a horse whose stature matches that of the beer. The year-round stout is aged in whiskey barrels, as is the Warrior Monk Belgian-style stout.
No matter what the customer drinks at Four Saints, the brewery’s mission – great beer for great people – remains the same.
“We’re not just trying to sell someone a beer,” McClosky said, “but tell them about our community, our home.”
Four Saints brews a community in Asheboro
by Karl H. Kazaks